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Calcium Carbide

Submitted by sat on 24 September 2017

Storage and properties

Calcium carbide can be safely stored with Dangerous Goods Class 4.3, segregated from incompatible chemicals, and MUST be kept dry.

When calcium carbide reacts with water it forms acetylene gas (ethyne) and calcium hydroxide, and generates heat. 

CaC2 (s) + 2H2O (l)   C2H2 (g) + Ca(OH)2 (s) 

Calcium carbide may contain impurities of phosphorus, nitrogen and sulfur compounds. While pure acetylene gas is odourless and non-toxic, these impurities in the calcium carbide, when reacted with water, produce trace amounts of phosphine, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, which are toxic and can impart an unpleasant odour to the gas. Acetylene can form explosive mixtures with air.

Safe Handling

Calcium carbide is not banned from use; however, the following safe practices should be observed:


A suitable activity:

Alternatively, the following suitable videos could be viewed:

1. ‘Calcium Carbide & Acetylene - Periodic Table of Videos’, YouTube (6:20 min), (7 May 2012)

2. ‘Combustion of Acetylene’, YouTube (11:14 min), (17 December 2012)

3. ‘Carbide lamp.wmv’, YouTube (3:37 min)  (21 February 2010)

4. ‘Acetylene Production from Calcium Carbide’, YouTube (2:44 min)  (5 August 2012)


‘Calcium Carbide & Acetylene - Periodic Table of Videos’, YouTube (6:20 min), (7 May 2012)

Chem-Supply. 2016. Calcium carbide, Safety Data Sheet, Chem-Supply website, (January 2016)

NSW Department of Education and Training. 1999. Chemical Safety in Schools Appendix D. Calcium carbide, NSW Department of Education and Training; Sydney. p68

Queensland Department of Education, Training and Employment. 2014. Unpredictable science experiments. Health & Safety Alert, DET website, (Link updated June 2019)